Questioning the "Normal" American Family in American Beauty

535 WordsFeb 23, 20182 Pages
American Beauty, released in 1999, was a tragic comedy, created by Sam Mendes. The movie had audiences questioning the ideal American family. You see the usual midlife crisis that most people go through but watching further uncovers a deeper conflict of feeling oppressed with what society considers a “normal” life. The movie has many connecting themes through plot, characterization, and cinematography and these themes carry well throughout the movie. The main themes are listed accordingly, appearance versus reality, loneliness versus feeling connected, denial and repression, and beauty. A theme that is consistent throughout the movie is of empty promises of materialism. From afar the Burnhams seem to have the American Dream: a nice house in the suburbs, children, cars and good jobs. The Art Culture Film website describes them as "trapped by the ideology of the American Dream" (Structural 1). Carolyn Burnham unnaturally obsessed with materialism and other's opinions of them (Newman 8). She has an obsession with her material items that she owns and to her they equal success. Mendes shows us a scene where Lester is trying to show passion by kissing Carolyn on the couch but all Carolyn could worry about was the beer almost spilling on the couch. Lester, frustrated, yells, "It's just a couch!" to which she replies that it is not just a couch, but one that cost $4,000 and is upholstered in Italian silk. In another scene where Carolyn fights with her daughter, she yells at Jane

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